Sam Explains

Inspector Gadget 2

This week Sam brings Danielle the 2003 direct to VHS film Inspector Gadget 2. If you fondly recall the original 1999 film starring Matthew Broderick, or even the Inspector Gadget cartoon, then you’re leagues ahead of Sam and Danielle who only have the vaguest notion of what happened in that first film. Will that stop them from speculating wildly using only the sequel as reference? Absolutely not! So it’s time for a new film and and a new Gadget played by French Stewart. He’s apparently made Riverton so crime free after locking up Claw that he’s bored out of his mind and arresting anyone for the most minor infractions. Things don’t stay tranquil for long as Claw escapes from prison and prepares for a major heist: Steal all the gold from the Federal Reserve Bank which has recently relocated to Riverton for…reasons. But to complete this first heist, he needs to complete three smaller heists to steal materials to make a super-weapon. Sam hates this plan. Meanwhile, Gadget is eager to go after Claw, but is taken off the case by the chief who hates him because he’s constantly glitching and, even though the police made him, they refuse to fix his glitches since he’s just a “prototype”; just amazingly cruel. Anyway, he’s replaced with the fully robotic (and unnecessarily sexy) Gadget 2. While Gadget accepts this, his niece Penny (parents’ status: unknown) pushes him to investigate anyway. Meanwhile, despite Claw stating that he had all his assets seized when he was arrested, he manages to put together some amazingly complex bowling-pin themed gizmos to accomplish his heists. Why is he suddenly a bowling-pin themed villain? That’s an extremely good question! So join us to see if Claw will succeed in his insane plan, if Gadget will redeem himself, and especially if Gadget will find a way to either have sex with the new Gadget or accidentally inspire her to start the robot apocalypse.

The Secret Kingdom

This week Sam shares with Danielle the 2023 fantasy movie The Secret Kingdom. Peter is your average mopey teen with crippling anxiety and a bubbly younger sister. His family has recently arrived at a new house. We say “arrived” because the real mystery of this movie starts right away as Sam and Danielle try to figure out if the family is moving there, or just there to clean, or what. this mystery is compounded by the fact that when a moving truck arrives the dad drops the bomb that surprise! Their home was foreclosed on, so what does that makes this place? This utterly irrelevant detail completely baffling our hosts really sets the tone for the rest of this movie. Soon Peter’s sister Verity manages to get them both transported to a magic, subterranean kingdom inhabited by large, bipedal pangolins. Verity somehow already speaks their language, and soon Peter is blessed with the pangolin tongue when one of the creatures literally sticks their tongue in his ear. Peter is—surprise, surprise—the chosen one, the prophesied king of the pangolins who must go on an epic quest to defeat a creature of pure evil called the Shroud. How is Peter to do this? Why a fetch-quest of course! He needs to find five pieces of a broken clock hidden around this forgotten world and then fix the clock which will defeat the Shroud. Somehow. No time for questions, they have a quest to do! So off Peter, Verity, and their pangolin companion Pling go through this actually stellar looking world to find the pieces in a quest so utterly simple that it angers Sam and forces Danielle to repeatedly ask “Why couldn’t a pangolin do this?”

Endymion – Part 6

It’s finally here, the finale of the 1996 Dan Simmons novel Endymion! Where we last left off, Father Captain de Soya had been called back to Pacem to receive new orders and a new crew member. It turns out the pope has been having visions from “God” that have told him the location of Aenea on Sol Draconi Septem. The pope is also declaring a crusade against the ousters, and everyone knows crusades are always a good idea. The new crew member, Rhadamanth Nemes, is a type of super solider being created for this crusade, though de Soya has reservations. Meanwhile, Raul an the others are still with Father Glaucus waiting to make their trek across the wraith infested surface to the next Farcaster portal. The Chichatuk return and they gear up, finally ready to face the wraiths (a name Danielle still has massive issues with). Anyway, they cross the surface and leave through the Farcaster never having even seen a wraith, and Sam is incoherent with frustration. Just after they leave, de Soya and his crew arrive in the system, but while he’s still resurrecting, the obviously non-human Nemes heads down to the surface to try and murder Aenea. She uses the same kind of silver skin-suit that Kassad and Moneta had, and she gets to work, murdering Glaucus and the Chichatuk, and shooting flashlight beams out of her mouth much to the delight of both our hosts. Sam is ecstatic that here, in the last part of the book, the plot has finally shown up in full force, and things only ramp up from there as the story races towards an exciting conclusion, then smashes into a wall with a bizarre coda. Honestly, it’s the best that could have been hoped for.

Endymion – Part 5

This week Sam brings the penultimate episode of his deep dive into the 1996 Dan Simmons novel Endymion. When we last left off, it was implied the our hero Raul was dead, thought this was obviously not the case. This part open with us learning how Raul escaped death, both at the hands of the human Pax soldiers, and the jaws of the rainbow sharks. Although well armed, Raul refuses to shoot any of them (sharks or people) but that’s okay, Aenea and A. Bettik have swum out to where Raul was drifting in the infinite ocean to save him, so no worries. The trio escapes through the Farcaster portal and find themselves on Hebron. There no signs of life, in fact it looks to have been recently abandoned in a hurry. Raul is infected with something he picked up in the ocean, so they spend a few weeks recuperating before moving on. After the next portal, they emerge in a vast, but quite sealed, cave of ice on a planet so cold that the atmosphere is broken. This about breaks the limit of Sam’s ability to suspend disbelief, and is quite angry that everyone isn’t already dead. Meanwhile, Father Captain de Soya conducts a thorough, but inconclusive, investigation on Mare Infinitus. He determines that Raul was there, and has identified him by fingerprint, but not much else. He decides it’s time for him and his crew to venture to an Ouster controlled world to find Aenea, and wouldn’t you know it, he picks Hebron. But psych! They never make it there as their ship is pursued by Ousters and makes run for it before they can be resurrected. De Soya wakes up on Pacem, where he faces a very brief inquisition before being told he’s being sent back out on his search again. Meanwhile, Raul comes up with an incredibly stupid plan to escape the ice cave that, even more incredibly, some how works. This leads to yet more dead-ends until they abandon the raft and explore the tunnels through the ice. It’s here they encounter humans living on this world, but will they be friendly or dangerous? (Friendly, immediately they are extremely friendly, sorry for the not-so-spoiler). So join us for possibly the angriest Sam has ever been at a media piece he’s presented. Fun!

Endymion – Part 4

This week Sam brings us part four of Dan Simmons’ 1996 book Endymion. It’s been a while, but we’re back with more Hyperion! It’s been so long, in fact, that Danielle has completely forgotten everything that happened in the previous episode including the title, though to be fair, there wasn’t really all that much going on. Raul, Aenea and A. Bettik are all trapped on some mysterious jungle world after barely escaping the Pax by fleeing through the hitherto non-functional Farcaster portal. The Shrike makes a brief cameo, but immediately leaves without dropping any sick beats, which is a huge disappointment. Aenea and crew decide to raft down the river to the next Farcaster, which gives Raul time to feel paternal towards Aenea, which is just all kinds of gross given what we know of their future. They get caught in a storm and “Yee-haw!” a bit, as you do, before finally ending up through the other portal and onto Mare Infinitus. Their big plan is to drift aimlessly across the infinite ocean and hope they come across the next Farcaster portal. Infuriatingly, this works. However, Raul needs to make a brief detour to distract some nearby Pax so they can sneak by. Meanwhile, Father-Captain de Soya and his crew spend two months hopping around to eight different planets, and Sam insists on telling Danielle about each one, even if they don’t matter, because he loves sharing the pain. Eventually, de Soya comes to Mare Infinitus where he hears about an attack a few months ago by a single man. This, de Soya correctly concludes, was Raul, and he’s delighted to have his first lead in months. Unfortunately, Raul was killed in the attack, or at least the book tries to make it look that way, but since Raul is the one “writing” the book, it’s not much of a fake-out. So join us as we delve deep into the relationship between Raul and Aenea, and into more Keats poetry and philosophy (finally!), and, most importantly, try to find out just why we’re being told about those fly-cycles!

Holiday in Handcuffs

This week, Sam rounds out the Winter Bizarre with the 2007 ABC Family movie Holiday in Handcuffs. Melissa Joan Hart (character name unknown) is always trying to please her very demanding parents, but this year she’s excited because she’s bringing her successful boyfriend to the family Christmas trip to a rural log cabin. However, after tanking a job interview, Melissa is dumped by that same boyfriend mere hours before they were supposed to leave. What’s a girl to do? Easy: Kidnap the nearest available man, in this case Mario Lopez (character name also unknown). This sets Melissa on a wild ride where she has to convince her family that the very-much-not-happy-to-be-there Mario is actually her boyfriend, so they can all just get off her back, okay. This is, obviously, a perfect plan, and through a series of truly convoluted events, and aided by some remarkably oblivious family members and a Mario Lopez who could really be doing more to escape, Melissa mostly manages to keep up the ruse. However, things start to get serious when Melissa sees how much her family all love Mario, and Mario develops Stockholm Syndrome. Crazily enough, the movie doesn’t end when Melissa gets busted for kidnapping, but somehow there’s still a lot more to the story. Other highlights include: A strange family tradition involving a “key master”, a surprise interest in art from both characters, some sporadic narration, and a drunken grandmother threatening to shoot police officers with a flintlock pistol. Seriously, this movie is just all the bananas.

Endymion – Part 3

We’re back in record time with part three of the 1996 Dan Simmons novel Hyperion. Danielle makes a much better showing this time, recapping the previous episode with aplomb. After letting Aenea escape after emerging from the Time Tombs, Father Captain de Soya is regrouping in the Parvati system with his Swiss Guard commandos to capture Aenea when she arrives. During the journey, Aenea and Raul spend some quality, and slightly creepy, time together. Skinny dipping is involved. Anyway, Aenea essentially improvises a plan where she threatens to kill everyone on her ship if de Soya doesn’t let her escape. Not willing to risk it, de Soya agrees, but then just tracks them to their next destination in Renaissance Vector, a heavily fortified Pax world, so it doesn’t seem like much was accomplished by this whole gambit. While waiting again for their arrival, de Soya starts having dreams about Aenea as his daughter, and this is where Danielle starts feeling completely over this whole story. Really, it only gets more infuriating from there, as the method in which the ragtag crew lead by a child escape yet again is absolute nonsense. It may be short, but this episode is especially dense with nonsense, raising perhaps the biggest question of the series so far: How the heck is the river Tethys still flowing?

Endymion – Part 2

After a spooky hiatus, Sam is back with more of the 1996 novel Endymion. The biggest fallout for Sam’s diversion into Slugs is that poor Danielle is left completely unable to recall anything that happened in the first part of Endymion. Luckily, not much went down, so it’s on to part two! Father Captain de Soya has returned to Pacem, and after a brief resurrection and Mass, he meets with some of the top brass of the Church. He’s informed that the Pax somehow knows that Brawne’s daughter Aenea is scheduled to emerge from the Time Tombs in the near future. De Soya is tasked to retrieve the child when she appears, or pursue the child wherever she goes until he does capture her, and then return her to Pacem. De Soya is assured that no harm will come to her, only that she will be saved. Despite finding that not so reassuring, de Soya heads out to take command of Pax forces to capture a child. Back in Endymion, Endymion (the person) is back from exploring the city. During dinner, Martin assures Raul that he’s going to be grossly outmatched and outgunned in his attempt to rescue Aenea. However, Martin has a secret weapon, that just happens to be the same secret weapon that always appears: the old Hawking mat! So Raul grabs his apparently essential tricorn hat, hops on the mat, and speeds through the labyrinth to sneak into Time Tomb valley. In the valley itself, de Soya readies his troops as a massive sandstorm rolls in, which can only mean one thing: DJ Shrike is on his way! So the big questions remain: Will Raul rescue Aenea? Can they escape the Pax? Will Danielle remember any of this next time? Hopefully we’ll find out!

Slugs

Spook Retorts is back, and this week Sam shares the 1988 cult horror movie Slugs! When people start dying in mysterious ways in a small town, it’s up to county health inspector Mike Brady to uncover the mystery. Why is it up to the health inspector to do this? That is among the many, many questions this movie steadfastly refuses to answer or even acknowledge. Anyway, Mike Brady first encounters the slugs’ work when he is called to help evict an old drunk. Why he was called to assist in an eviction is yet another mystery. The man, they find, has been reduced to a bloody skeleton, and it’s not long before more bodies show up. Mike eventually enlists the help of generic movie scientist John in his burgeoning murder slug theory, since John is an expert on slugs, and also everything else. It’s about halfway into the movie when Danielle and special guest Filip start to wonder how a slug invasion could be remotely threatening. Unfortunately, neither Sam nor the movie is able to demonstrate any way in which slugs could be threatening. Nevertheless, the slugs’ body count continues to rise, mostly by catching people who aren’t paying attention during sex, or by causing people to blow up their greenhouses/meth labs. So join us for this Spook Retorts romp into B-move fun as we see if an ordinary town can survive the slugs! Spoiler: the ultimate solution to the slug threat does way more death and destruction than the slugs ever would have.

Keep an ear out for a soon-to-be released Mind Duck Books episode where Filip, Danielle, and Sam all discuss the book Slugs on which this movie was based. Find Mind Duck Books on Twitter @mindduckbooks, Instagram @mindduckbooks, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Endymion – Part 1

This week Sam takes us back to Hyperion with the1996 Dan Simmons novel Endymion. Hyperion is back and Danielle is thrilled! Picking up around 274 years after the conclusion of the previous book, Endymion opens with some narration by a man named, wait for it, Raul Endymion. We learn that Raul grew up on Hyperion, did a bunch of odd jobs, and eventually ended up leading a duck hunting expedition that went disastrously wrong. Raul is blamed for the temporary deaths (remember those cruciform parasites? They’re back in a big way!) of the people he was leading on the hunt and is sentenced to death. However, just as he is about to be executed by just one of many overly complicated death machines to appear in this book, he is in fact only rendered unconscious. It’s also important to note that in the years since the “Fall” a new theocratic government has taken over lead by the Catholic Church and based around the gift of immortal life via the cruciform parasites which they now control. When Raul wakes up, he’s in the ruined city of Endymion (yup, it’s a city too!) and, notably, not executed. He is soon brought to see the nearly mummified, but still living, poet Martin Silenus who wants to give him a job. Brawne Lamia’s daughter, the One who Teaches, disappeared into the Sphinx Time Tomb when she was 12, over 260 years ago. Somehow, Martin knows she’s scheduled to emerge in just a few days and wants Raul to retrieve her and keep her safe from the Church and its military arm the Pax, who also somehow know this schedule and want to kill or capture her. Speaking of, Father-Captain Federico de Soya is pulled off his task-force hunting Ousters (still considered an enemy) to engage in some secret mission of the utmost importance. If you’re feeling lost in all of this, you should probably go back and listen to all the Hyperion episodes again; it won’t help, but they’re pretty fun!

Check out Sam and Danielle on the Mind Duck Books podcast episode about the Fall of Hyperion. Find Mind Duck Books on Twitter @mindduckbooks, Instagram @mindduckbooks, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.